Winterset Community School District

  1. PLC Story
  2. PLC Practices
  3. Achievement Data
  4. Awards
  5. Resources

Winterset Community School District began the journey of building a successful Professional Learning Community model in 2012-2013. A guiding coalition, comprised of faculty throughout the district, began a book study of Learning by Doing.  This study commenced due to student learning data indicating pockets of excellence but overall inconsistent practices within classrooms and throughout the district.  At that time there were no district-wide systems in place regarding curriculum, instruction, assessment, intervention, and collaboration. The goals of this guiding coalition were to plan, develop, and sustain a collaborative structure that would focus on continuous improvement efforts, collaboration, improved student learning and results.

This team initially investigated and now continuously focuses on improvement efforts within all aspects of the PLC process.  Examples include:

  • Creating a vision, mission, and goals focused on all students learning at high levels

  • Infusing PLC processes into a district strategic plan that is a living document

  • Garnering support from faculty, staff and school board

  • Communicating to students, parents, and community members

  • Developing of presentations and communication around the why and how

  • Providing time during the student day for all teachers, PreK-12, to collaborate daily

  • Creating professional development (whole group, small group, 1:1) weekly through an innovative district calendar

  • Implementing intervention time daily to meet the needs of all students through remediation, extension, and enrichment

  • Building master schedules around student needs (SPED, At-Risk, TAG)

  • Learning opportunities (monthly,district & site-based) focused on articulating and unpacking essential learnings, research-based/high impact teaching practices, formative assessment strategies, intervention, enrichment, and extension opportunities

  • Implementing district-wide systems of support (MTSS) utilized at all sites to ensure a systemic approach and response

Now that many structures and systems are in place, the focus is on operationalizing and continuously improving the PLC concepts into the daily work of the district.  As new teachers are hired, they are indoctrinated into the Winterset Way from the very first new hire meeting, to monthly mentor meetings, to their daily PLC teams. The district’s Teacher Leadership System is aligned to foster support for all teachers - new and veteran.  Data is collected, analyzed through universal screening processes and protocols through collaborative team structures and response to that data is expected.

Furthermore, the district has commited valuable resources (time and money) for continuous learning opportunities centered around the pillars of PLC’s and the 5 guiding questions.  Over 150 of our current staff members have attended a PLC institute since 2013 with the commitment to continue this tremendous learning opportunity. Building teams have participated in RTI coaching and the RTI Institute.  Further, professional learning for every faculty member included the hosting of a PLC Hybrid event. Additional support has been facilitated by many Solution Tree Associates on-site including: Marc Johnson, Ken Williams, Anthony Muhammad, and Chris Jakicic.  

As evidenced in our actions, we are committed to learning, doing and improving on our journey of establishing a culture of collaboration in order to achieve our mission, vision, and goals.  These efforts have been fruitful. Since 2012, we have realized improved results on our State Report Card, Iowa Assessments, ACT data, dropout data, and we have fewer failing students in courses.  Since 2016, we have been fielding calls and visits from other districts to learn, observe and visit the practices we are implementing that can be replicated elsewhere. While our success is a result of many focused efforts, we believe none of our success would have happened without the vision, commitment and action to cultivate a collaborative culture that is intensely focused on the 4 guiding questions of the PLC process.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Feedback is a critical ingredient in student learning.  As such, the district and our buildings have taken a multi-faceted approach regarding monitoring student learning on a timely basis.  At all sites, departments have been organized into collaborative teams to ensure both horizontal and vertical alignment of curriculum is in place.  All sites have spent the last two school years developing and unpacking essential standards in all areas to ensure a guaranteed and viable curriculum.  This clarity has assisted our teams in establishing what students should know, understand, and be able to do. Throughout the unpacking process, formative assessments have been created by teacher teams to monitor student learning and to inform future instructional decisions.  District level professional learning has been vital to this process. Our district committed to monthly whole group professional learning centered around highly effective assessment practices. Then, teams were supported in the development of common formative assessments applicable to their content.    

Another avenue in which our district and buildings have achieved positive results in monitoring student learning is through the universal screening and progress monitoring process.  For all students in grades PreK-8, students are screened at least three times a year in literacy and math with the intent to monitor student progress and growth. Weekly progress monitoring is done for students below standard.  Protocols and procedures are in place to effectively monitor individual, grade level, building level, and system level student achievement data in order to properly inform instructional decisions on a frequent and on-going basis.  There are tools that have been created by coaches, administrators, and teachers collaboratively to monitor our Tier 1 package in both literacy and math. Decision making flowcharts and spreadsheets inform our collaborative teams to monitor and analyze student data in relation to mastery of content area standards and individual skills.  The high school is in the process of adopting a universal screener and developing a process to monitor student learning student by student/skill by skill.

System level monitoring is taking place through our state developed Differentiated Accountability process.  Protocols to measure the effectiveness of our Tier 1 package and interventions are employed. Additionally, strategic plan monitoring on a monthly and annual basis is provided to the Board of Education.   Prior to our PLC journey we held “data days” on a quarterly basis. While helpful, they were not timely. By clearly know what students are to learn, having mechanisms to determine if they have learned and to use built in time to support re-learning or extending learning, we have been able to move to a system that monitors and adjusts to student needs on a daily basis.


2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.

All buildings within the Winterset Community School District have created a system of intervention, enrichment, and extension to provide students with additional time and support for learning.  This system begins with a focus on strong core instruction and then differentiating within the classroom. Adjustments to content, process, and/or products are made based upon formative and summative data.  If a student needs remediation or enrichment/extension beyond Tier 1 all of our sites possess a clear and targeted approach to keep learning the constant and time the variable. For instance, if a student or group of students within our PK-6 environment achieve significantly below or above grade level norms and benchmarks then individual and/or classwide interventions are conducted.  These interventions are targeted towards the needs of the students based upon data generated from common formative assessments, universal screening tools, and/or district/building assessments that have been administered throughout the year.

Beyond the core, daily built-in time is available for every student called core+more.  During this time students receive enrichment, extension, or remediation. W.I.N. (Whatever I Need) for K-8th graders, groups students according to their needs (based on data) so all are meeting or exceeding standards.  For grades 9-12 a similar structure called Learning Seminar provides students support for learning. Teachers select the students and assign them to groups based on need. WIN and Seminar times are not optional for students.  By using the school day and assigning students to support, they have learned it is harder to fail or avoid learning and thus it has resulted in highly significant shifts in learning and success for many students. Additionally, a triple dose of core++ is available for students in special education resulting in high achievements of IEP goals and record student staff outs.  

If our core or core+ is not impacting student learning and/or the intensity, duration and frequency is significant we turn to our Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) process.  This was modelled heavily after Mattos’ RtI framework. in order to inform decisions regarding instructional programs. All buildings utilize the district-wide process to ensure continuity and clarity of service for our unique learners.  The purpose of our MTSS process is to support student access to grade level standards and strategies in which we can utilize in order to close the gap. Experts in special education, talented and gifted, literacy and math instruction, and behavior supports make up the team.  The team creates a plan for intensive instruction and monitoring that suits each individual student in order to meet their needs.


3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.

Winterset Community School District began the process of building high performing, collaborative teams in 2013.  This has been a process that has evolved from, “do we have to do this?” to “we can’t function without our teams and team time”.   Many key decisions and supports were put in place to ensure teams were developed, nurtured and sustained. These included:

  • Clear expectations of the vision for teams and expectations for collegiality and collaboration

  • Weekly collaboration time provided through late-start Wednesdays  

  • PLC facilitators were identified for each content or grade level team.  

  • Training, support, templates and an on-line PLC toolbox

  • Hiring practices that identified individuals who are collaborative, innovative and focused on student learning  

  • Master schedule revisions that provided common planning every day for every teacher

  • Group professional development and customized support for facilitators and teams

  • Team development such as DiSC profile, use of norms, SMART goal writing, use of protocols and conducting difficult conversations

  • Planning and implementing curriculum, instruction, assessments and intervention/extensions


Teams develop annual goals to address student needs as indicated from formal and informal data sources.  From there PLC team facilitators develop agendas for both Wednesday late starts and daily collaborative planning.  Administrators, teacher leaders and instructional coaches check-in frequently with the facilitators to ensure they have what they need to be successful.  If teams are high functioning, they are recognized. If teams are struggling, there are multiple supports in place and available to ensure they are on track and contributing to the district’s strategic plan and expectations.  The focus on continuous improvement is unwavering and has contributed to all teams making significant growth since the beginning of this journey. This growth has been noticed internally and externally. So much so that non-certified groups such as our building secretaries have asked for and have been allocated weekly team time.


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Winterset Elementary School was designated in the 2017-2018 school year as a Exceptional rating according to the Iowa School Report Card.  This status was awarded for the building's high student achivement and increase in proficiency of our Special Education population, which was over 20% in one school year.  

Winterset Middle School was designated in the 2017-2018 school yer as a Comendable rating according to the Iowa School Report Card.  This status was awarded for the buildings high student achivement.  

Graduation rate for Winterset High School is 96.27% as compared to our state average of 91%. 

Winterset High School was recognized Bronze status from U.S. News and World Report

ACT average score is 23.9 up from 22.9 in 2013.  State average is 21.9.  In 2017 our district out performed our entire conference on ACT.   

Our state assessment is the Iowa Assessment.  We have 98-99% particpation rate yearly.  

Update:  05/21/2019

Winterset Middle School was one of five schools in the state of Iowa nominated for a Blue Ribbon award due to high student achivement. 

Winterset Community School District exceeded our state average on our ESSA performance profiles in all student achievement categories including: 

-Percent proficient Reading 86.47 (State average 77.04) 

-Percent proficient Math 86.37 (State average 78.36)

-Growth Reading 59 (State average 50)

-Growth Math 54 (State average 50)

  • 2016 and 2017 Top Workplace

  • Elementary designated as Exceptional according to Iowa State Report Card

  • Middle School principal runner-up as Elementary School Principal of the Year through School Administrators of Iowa

  • Middle School awarded a Promising Practice designation from the Iowa Department of Education due to their exemplary community partnerships and family engagement thus impacting the culture and student learning.

  • Middle School designated as Commendable according to Iowa State Report Card

  • Graduation rate is 96.27% as compared to Iowa graduation rate of 91%

  • ACT average score is 23.9 up from 22.9 in 2013.  State average is 21.9

  • Named one of Iowa Top School Districts - 2018 by

  • Update 05/21/2019

  • Winterset Middle School was nominated for a Blue Ribbon Award due to high achievement 

  • Our district superintendent was awarded the Iowa Superintendent of the Year